Tag Archives: twitter

The medium is the message; or, the machines are taking over.

As figures for online news consumption soar, and newspaper circulations dwindle, I consider the idea that social media acted as the catalyst to get the masses involved with reading online news.

1960s popular culture Image by Nesster

1960s popular culture
Image by Nesster

In 1964 there was a growing fear in the western world. The atom bomb? L.S.D? JFK? Maybe; but in particular, perhaps echoed in the other suggestions, there was an anxiety about machines taking over and making humans redundant, at least in employment terms, although, a night spent watching 1960’s movies would suggest unemployment was the least of their worries.

The relevance of Marshall McLuhan’s well-worn enigmatic paradox of smart-arsery is arguably (in the sense that I will put the argument to anyone that will listen) more poignant now than it ever was in the days of free-love. The medium is the message, just like Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ has flattered many a media studies student, in the name of deceit; but I feel it goes a long way to describing the current state we find ourselves in.

It is the train journey that is important here, not the destination. Just like the automation McLuhan and his peers feared, could have ‘turned out cornflakes or Cadillacs’ it is not the social media platform itself, but the way humans use it. To use McLuhan’s idea; the machines, or the media or technology, are the extensions of man. That is; they only have meaning when they are understood as part of the human desire to give and receive messages – to communicate.

Image by vitalyzator

It’s about the train journey, not the platform. Social media is the transport not the destination. Image by vitalyzator

Social media has altered our relation with one another and to ourselves. It has changed the velocity, dynamics and scale of human interactions; and that is its message. ‘For the message of any medium is the change in scale or pace or pattern it introduces into human affairs.’ Just like McLuhan’s railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheels into human society, yet managed to accelerate and enlarge the scale of previous human functions and, in turn create new kinds of cities for people to live and work in; social media has not introduced anything new into human society.

Social media did not introduce digital communication, but changed the pace and scale of human interaction, and as such, quite independently of what it was created to do, dissolved the need for printed information, and in turn, lubricated the demise of the traditional press.

I know that online news was around before the rise of social media, and that newspaper circulations were dropping too; but it was when the content started to fit around the way humans were consuming information that it really took off.  Sharing news through Twitter and Facebook has become easy to do – and we do it, a lot.

It’s as if the legitimacy of the press has been revitalised through the new ways we share and use it. Alistair Campbell wrote this last week:

“Here is the thing. People do not trust politicians like they used to. They don’t trust the media to tell the truth like they used to. They don’t trust banks or brands. So who do we trust? We trust each other.”

And that is my point. If we all value each others’ opinion more than the media, then the stories from the media will gain cultural value as they pass through us, as conduits for the traditional news story.

Is second hand news more valuable to us than stories direct from the news conglomerates?

Maybe, we trust each other to act as filters to hold back anything biased or challenging to our view of the world.

Lets take The Sun. As I write this the latest ABC figures show that, although their daily circulation remains at a healthy 2.2 million, its year-on-year change is down 13% compared to the online figure of +16%; The Guardian has almost 83 million monthly browsers, a 37% rise year-on-year. The Daily Mail‘s circulation is 1,787,577, down7.5%, where the Mail online attracts an average of 8.2 million daily browsers at a +47% year-on-year change; I could go on.

We do find it humorous to think of our silly descendants; so scared of technology and ignorant of change that they thought machines would take over their jobs. But maybe we should learn to take heed.

McLuhan warned us that it was the medium that was the message. He told us that the message was how a medium affects humans, and social media has affected the ways we choose to consume news. Social media has dissolved traditional journalism – machines have taken over after all!

 

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G-Force: Or, what goes up must come down

Every social network site has a life cycle. Some last longer than others but there will always be something bigger, better, faster, stronger waiting in the wings. Have a listen to this delightful song as you read my take on it all.  My delve into the brave new world of Google+.

Everyone, at some time in their lives goes through a stage when they realise they are set in their ways; stuck in a routine (comfortable). It can happen when you’re in a relationship; you can plan out the week by what you’re having for dinner, or what television programmes you’ll sit and eat it in front of (I know, but we all do it, the table has got the ironing pile on and the laptop is charging). It happens with the places you go too.

BocaDorada

“would you like your usual?”
Image courtesy of BocaDorada

When you’re young you go to every bar, cafe and club you can. You have an appetite for new experiences and a hunger to meet new and exciting people. But then something happens and you get comfortable again. You find yourself frequenting the same bars, and the same cafes (clubbing is simply out of the question; too many young people making loud noises).

What if the same thing has happened to your social media life as has to your social life? Well let me tell you, it has! We all quite happily discarded the passé charms of MySpace without a second thought when we realised the ‘in’ crowd were hanging out on Facebook in their droves, and we were quite happy, after a few complimentary words from our most cutting edge of friends, to spend a little of our time in that new place where everyone was twitting or tweeting or something like that. Yes, we all give it a go and learned how to fit in and order what we wanted, but that’s when it started to go a bit stale.

Sure, your networking friends started to dabble with LinkedIn, and you go to show you’re face every now and then, just to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. But we’ve been hanging around the same places for so long we seem to have settled. Have we really though? Are we prepared to accept that this is it for us now? (Why not, I hear you say; we haven’t listened to any new music produced after 2002!) If we open our eyes, and remember our bygone wanderlust we may get a pleasant surprise.

googleplus

Does Google+ have the potential to overtake Facebook?

Ok, the new place looks pretty good. It seems to have all the best bits of the regular places with a few really cool new bits, but is it worth the hassle of signing up for something new? Is Google+ really worth all the stress of learning how to get around somewhere new and signing up to be a member of yet another new club? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I for one am prepared to be one of the first to give it a go. Yes I know, it’s full of young people and strange men who know the difference between a cloud and a klout, but that’s what we thought about Twitter back in 2007. I’m prepared to uproot and rebuild my life in a new place, safe in the knowledge that you will all join me in a couple of years (if that!).

Google+ faces an impossible task trying to convince people to leave the people and places they have grown to love (if only through familiarity). They must rely on the early adopters, and the advocates to spread the word. Admittedly so, I left it too long to be able to call myself an early adopter, but I’m doing it now and I implore you all to follow suit.

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If you’re not part of the conversation, at least be privy to it!

Monitoring the conversations that are taking place about you is a must-do. There is no excuse for not listening and it could help save your reputation.

I was driving into work on 14th March wondering if  Spring was ever going to spring, when BBC Newcastle radio station announced in a report that TT2, the company that operate the Tyne Tunnel linking South Tyneside with Newcastle and Northumberland, had not installed speed cameras in their tunnels despite substantial rumours.

TT2

“You have about 20 minutes northbound and 15 minutes heading south.” I was always going North!

The Tyne Tunnel was once a frequent utterance on local radio breakfast shows; mainly in the traffic reports. But since the construction and opening of the second tunnel it faded into memory; especially for me now that I had moved my place of work from Ashington to the much more conveniently situated Walbottle.

The Tyne Tunnel was great now. They opened it up on time, in an era when construction company deadlines held as much weight as your wallet after you’ve bought a season ticket to Wembley Stadium, and they had received  generally good press coverage.

However, all this was to end one cold day in March when rumours started on Twitter that they had secretly installed speed cameras. Furthermore, the tweets seemed to indicate they had not publicly announced this as it had been their intention to use it as a profiteering tool.

All of a sudden TT2 had a PR crisis on their hands, and what’s more it was not even true!

This spread of information was contained to Twitter, but had already spread to a huge reach, and damage to TT2’s reputation was at the heart of the discourse. There was a conversation happening that they were not part of.

I don’t know exactly how they found out about the rumours on the electronic grapevine; they should have had someone monitoring there name, but I fear they were probably contacted by a journalist, or someone else who monitors social media as part of their everyday tasks.

All organisations need to monitor social media

Interestingly, even though they have a Twitter account they chose not to use it in their efforts to get their side of the story out. They used local breakfast radio as their medium. This optimised their potential to reach their key public – motorists in the area of the tunnel.

So even though you are not communicating through social media platforms, don’t forget the importance of using them as a monitoring device. There is no excuse for ignoring it.

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